A letter from . . .

Nicaragua

July 23, 1993
Dear Jessica,

Things are good down here in So-Town. The violence is closing in on us, but I have more faith than I’ve had at any time in the past ten months that we’re going to outlast it.
     Last night was a little chiva. Some Recompas, led by an ex-army officer known as Pedrito the Honduran, stormed Estelí. They robbed two banks, cut the electricity, water, and phone lines, and took out about 20 civilians who were unlucky enough to be out on the street at the time. Half the people in Somoto were battening down the hatches and getting ready for war in the streets last night (Sometimes it seems like every family’s got their own cache of AK’s. The other half was brushing it off like nothing was really happening. I guess sitting by the radio in the candlelight, listening to the commentaries made it a little dramatic for me. This afternoon, the fighting had calmed down and about a third of the rebels had surrendered. Pedrito, however, is at large.
     My spirits are up, despite this Civil War stuff. Lisa (my sitemate) and I feel like if we can make it through this week without getting evacuated from our site, we’re set. At least that’s what I tell myself. You say something enough times and you start to believe it. Lisa and I have this stupid joke we do every time some more bad news shows up in the paper (every day). What we do is high-five each other, and say, “Burkina Faso, here we come!”
     These days I feel free. I’ve gone parasite-free for five straight weeks. And as of last weekend, I’m not living like a monk anymore. Now before you analyze my behavior too much, just take into account that I’m starting to get tired of always being so serious in the interests of cultural sensitivity. And that I had a blast. There’s a family here — they were my first friends, and as time goes on, continue to be my best friends. One of the sisters got married on Saturday, and I was invited. It was the sweetest wedding: civil ceremony, in the house, five minutes long, and pass the Flor de Cana. This was the fourth wedding I’ve been to. The first three are on my Top Ten List of all-time great parties. And now I’m adding this one.
     Let me tell you, it was great beyond words. One, it was the first time I’ve tipped a few back here in the pueblo. I never did it before because I was afraid of earning a bad rep as a machista or a drunk. But here I was among my best buddies, and they know who I really am, so who cares. Two, I danced and danced and danced. You know I don’t even know how to dance. I don’t even have shoes for it. But luckily, one of the brothers is a cop, and the day before the event, he presented me with a pair of size-13 dress shoes that had been donated to members of the police force by the Soviet Union. It’s the shoes. Three, this family is a big Sanidinista supporter, so the party was like a general meeting of every card-carrying Sandy in So-Town. Even the national president of the Sanidinista Youth was there from Juigalpa. And there I was, the gringo, the enemigo de la humanidad. It was exciting. It was the greatest.
     Part of the reason I let it all hang out that night was that, despite my happiness, I was feeling like Lisa and I were not too long for Somoto, what with the bands of rebels all around us. So what the hell? Might as well go out with a bang with your best buds, right? I don’t know why, but I think that party changed my attitude. I think I’m meant to be here, at least a little longer. We were out there moving nothing but our pelvises to the beat, and Carlos yelled across the dance floor to me. “Ya sos Nica!” he yelled. Now you’re a Nicaraguan! That might have been it. At the moment I wasn’t trying at all, I fit in better than ever before.

'Til soon,
Rodrigo

Roderick Jones (Nicaragua 1992–96) did make it through the week — and three more years! He is now working for the City of Chicago's Department of Public Health as a communicable disease epidemiologist.